SAS veteran receives 6-month jail sentence

SAS veteran receives 6-month jail sentence

A former British soldier has refused to give evidence at an inquest regarding an SAS ambush on an IRA squad in Co. Tyrone

A FORMER SAS soldier, now in his 60s and living in Scotland, is facing jail for contempt of court. He is refusing to attend an inquest into the deaths of three IRA members in an SAS ambush in 1991. The inquest, being heard in front of the presiding coroner of Northern Ireland the Honourable Mr Justice Humphreys, seeks to ascertain whether the use of lethal force by the SAS detachment group was justified in the ambush.

A six-month jail sentence was imposed last week on Soldier F — whose identity has not been revealed. The former SAS man is now appealing the sentence.

The ex-serviceman was cited to give his account of the June 1991 incident in Coagh, Co. Tyrone, to an inquest in Belfast.

Three men, Peter Ryan, Tony Doris and Lawrence McNally, died in the ambush.

Earlier this year, Judge Lady Carmichael at Scotland's Court of Session confirmed that the former serviceman was "involved in planning the operation". She wrote that there was "no dispute" that he was "one of the soldiers on the ground who opened fire".

The incident under inquest happened on June 3, 1991, when a Provisional IRA unit from the East Tyrone Brigade came under fire from an SAS detachment. The men in the IRA unit, Peter Ryan (37 years old), Lawrence McNally (39) and Tony Doris (21) were suspected of planning to kill a UDR man.

The UDR soldier was believed by the IRA to be an associate of the UVF.

Having prior intelligence of the potential IRA hit, an SAS man had been substituted as a decoy, sitting in his car at a spot regularly used by the UDR man. The car carrying the IRA men, a stolen Vauxhall Cavalier, was tracked on the ground and from the air, it is believed. When the car approached the ambush scene the SAS detachment opened fire. Doris was immediately hit, and the car spun out of control after being raked with between 150 to 200 rounds of ammunition.

Some reports claim that two of the IRA men attempted to exit the crashed car.

Evidence of what happened then is disputed. Other witnesses believed the car exploded on impact, burning the men inside beyond recognition.

Relatives subsequently stated that they had received information that two of the men had survived the crash, and had fled on foot from the scene, but had been pursued and shot down by British army soldiers in the vicinity. Their bodies, the relatives allege, were taken back to the car.

It has been claimed that the ambush was part of the British army’s shoot-to-kill policy against IRA.

Lawyers for Soldier F argued at the High Court in Belfast last year that a legal order compelling him to give evidence should be set aside due to his poor mental health.

But Madam Justice McBride, acting for the Northern Ireland coroner, reiterated that the order was justified as Soldier F's evidence was crucial in determining whether lethal force was justified in the Coagh incident.

Despite this, Soldier F did not go to the inquest last year to give evidence, prompting a court to pass an order — called a default certificate —detailing his failure to give evidence.

Lawyers for Mr Justice Humphreys went to Scotland’s Court of Session, the supreme civil court in Scotland, to pursue Soldier F for his non-attendance at the inquest in Northern Ireland.

It has been pointed out in court that ten other British army veterans were involved in the shooting, and have given accounts to the inquest.

The appeal on the matter will be heard later this month.